Waiting on Wednesday: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

waiting on wednesday

black iris by leah raederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Release Date: April 28, 2015

The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

Okay. I am a huge Leah Raeder fangirl. I’ve been looking forward to BLACK IRIS for what seems like fooooooorever. I almost had a heart attack yesterday when Atria approved me for the eARC. I’m frantically trying to finish everything else I have started so I can sit down and consume this. I’m pretty sure BLACK IRIS is going to wreck me.

Leah also did a fantastic interview with Dahlia Adler. She talks about a lot of stuff that’s near and dear to me, including sex in NA, queerness, and F/F in fiction. Read it if you’re interested in any of those topics… and even if you’re not. :D

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Book Review: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha LaiListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Published by HarperCollins on February 17, 2015
Genres: Diversity, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
This remarkable novel from Thanhha Lại, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.

A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.

Book Review:

The summer she turns twelve, Mia’s sent to the last place she wants to go. Instead of spending the summer on the beach with her best friend, she’s stuck in Vietnam with her grandmother. Bà’s on a quest to find news of her husband, Ông, who vanished during THE WAR more than thirty-five years ago. Mia wants nothing to do with hot and smelly Vietnam, a place where the only Internet she can find is dial up and she can’t speak the language. But Mia also wants her grandmother to have peace… as long as Bà hurries up.

I think Mia’s character is a great look at a first-generation kid. Her parents raised her to be American, but also with Vietnamese values. Yes, Mia’s selfish at times for her wish to go back home to her friends, but she also recognizes how important it is that Bà have closure. Over the course of LISTEN, SLOWLY, Mia respects her grandmother and her Vietnamese culture more and more. I really liked that theme of the book — I wish more kids and teens (and even adults!) these days respected their elders.

LISTEN, SLOWLY isn’t an action-packed book; it does unfold somewhat slowly. I do wonder if the recommended age, 8-12, would stick with it. But I don’t think it’s a book restricted to that age — teen and adult readers looking for diversity and a heartwarming story should pick this up. I liked Mia’s sometimes sarcastic observations about her culture, from the language to the food to how people are so polite all the time. I liked how she told her story, and hope it’s one lots of people read. Alongside Mia’s journey to learning about family, I teared up a bit for Bà and Ông.

Socialize with the author:

Thanhha Lai:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia BriggsDead Heat by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #4
Published by Ace on March 3, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way...

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Book Review:

DEAD HEAT makes me want to howl at the moon.

It’s that good folks — good enough to send me into a frenzied weekend of rereading the entire Alpha & Omega series and then right back into DEAD HEAT again. Yup. I read this book twice in a week and loved it both times. I was like an obsessed werewolf on the hunt. I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough.

I’ve liked Anna and Charles since CRY WOLF in 2008. Alpha & Omega is one of my very favorite paranormal romance series because it has all the things! Anna and Charles are great characters; they defy genre stereotypes and have a relationship I love (and I’m really picky on romance). The paranormal aspects are there; I enjoy how the author writes werewolves and her fae are super creepy. The stories are always interesting, as are the side characters. Really. I could go on and on about this series.

I think DEAD HEAT might be the best installment yet. It’s the fourth book in the series, and while I think you should read all of them, I also think you could dive right into this book and not be lost. It’s been almost 3 years since I read the third book, FAIR GAME, and I was okay. Events are loosely connected, but as the series goes on, I feel like each book is more independent.

In DEAD HEAT, Anna and Charles go to Arizona to buy a horse for Anna’s birthday. They stay with the local alpha, Hosteen. Hosteen’s son, Joseph, is one of the very few people Charles cares about other than his family. But Joseph is dying, leaving Charles to wonder if it’s worth the pain of being close to someone who will die. It’s a difficult conundrum, considering Anna wants to have children. And then Hosteen’s great-grandchildren are attacked by a deadly fae, sending our main pair on a hunt with the FBI and Cantrip for a missing child.

It sounds like a lot, right? But it’s not. I adore Patricia Briggs’ writing. She’s got this way of sucking me into a book, making me care about every single character, and making me want to be there. When I was reading DEAD HEAT, I wanted to be a werewolf. I wanted to have Anna and Charles’ relationship (and I’m a single-for-life woman). I like how Anna and Charles support each other, but they also know how to let the other stand alone when necessary. Their relationship feels so real to me, and that’s not usually something I say. I felt Patricia Briggs’ love for everything she wrote about, from Arabian horses to Anna and Charles to Hosteen and Joseph.

I just couldn’t get enough of DEAD HEAT. So good. Arrooooo!

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– leeanna

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard JacobsonPaper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Published by Candlewick Press on February 10, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem—Gage doesn’t actually have a place to live.

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been "couch surfing," staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

Book Review:

I was drawn to PAPER THINGS because Ari and her brother Gage are homeless. I hadn’t yet seen this topic covered in a middle-grade book, and I was curious as to how the author would handle it. I admit, I don’t have any experience or real knowledge of homelessness, but I think the author did an incredible job of showing it in a way kid and adult readers can empathize with Ari.

Only eleven, Ari has already been through a lot. Her father died in Afghanistan; she never knew him. Her mother died a few years ago. Since then, she and her brother have stayed with her mother’s best friend, Janna. But Gage and Janna don’t get along, so when Gage decides to leave, Ari goes with him, because their mother wanted them to stay together.

But Gage didn’t tell Ari he didn’t really have an apartment for them. They spend the next several weeks staying with friends, in a shelter, even in a storage unit and a car. Ari’s smart, but being homeless starts to affect her studies, her friendships, and even her chances at getting into a middle school for gifted students. I liked that the author showed how things can snowball: Ari doesn’t have enough time at the library because she and Gage have to worry about where they’re spending the night. She leaves research books at one friend’s house, across town. Her teachers aren’t happy when she tries to do homework for one class in another. And so on. When Gage gets a reliable job, he still can’t get an apartment because of government red tape or needing a rental history. Etc.

I read PAPER THINGS in one sitting, and the book definitely got to me. I was rooting for Ari and Gage. I felt for Ari, who was torn between her brother and her love for him, and the security she had with Janna. I thought Ari was relatable, and while she was sometimes really mature for an eleven-year-old, she was smart and had also deal with a lot in life, so it wasn’t unrealistic. PAPER THINGS is written simply enough so that kids can understand it, but also with enough depth so that adults can enjoy it and get just as much out of it.

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Jennifer Richard Jacobson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth

Book Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von SchönwerthThe Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
Published by Penguin Classics on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
With this volume, the holy trinity of fairy tales--the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen--becomes a quartet. In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth's work was lost--until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manuscripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive.

Now, for the first time, Schönwerth's lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre.

Book Review:

In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth tried to collect folk tales and legends of his native Bavaria. In 2009, scholar Erika Eichenseer rediscovered a treasure trove of 500 of Schönwerth’s tales. THE TURNIP PRINCESS contains over 70 of those tales. There’s also a foreward by Eichenseer, as well as an introduction and commentary by translator Maria Tatar.

The book is organized into six sections:
*Tales of Magic and Romance
*Enchanted Animals
*Otherworldly Creatures
*Legends
*Tall Tales and Anecdotes
*Legends

I appreciated how the tales were grouped. I felt like I was journeying through time reading them, as in the latter stories, there’s some religious influence. But as a result of the grouping, some of the tales did feel repetitive. The stories range from 1-3 pages, so I’d recommend reading a handful here and there, rather than reading the book in one go. I’d also recommend reading the commentary for each tale after you finish it (I didn’t know there was commentary until the end), since I think it adds to the tales.

As for the tales themselves, I enjoyed them. They’re earthy, unsanitized, unvarnished. In “Ashfeathers,” which is similar to Cinderella, stepsisters cut off a toe and heel. It’s mentioned and the tale moves on. In many tales, evil queens trick their sons, sending away their grandchildren. In the end, they’re burnt at the stake without fanfare. In several, guys were the ones in trouble, and needed rescuing by women. In “Follow Me, Jodel!” the not-so-bright Jodel is helped by a beautiful woman cursed to be a frog.

Overall, I liked reading the fairy tales in THE TURNIP PRINCESS. I’d recommend this book for readers who enjoy fairy tales, and want to see some new tales. I quite like the fact that not every girl was a damsel in distress. Many were strong and capable of saving themselves and their men.

– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

waiting on wednesday

dead heat by patricia briggsDead Heat (Alpha & Omega #4) by Patricia Briggs
Release Date: March 4, 2015

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way…

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

If you like paranormal romance and you haven’t read Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega series, read it now!. Seriously. I like it more than her Mercy Thompson series, which might be blasphemous, but damn, do I love Charles and Anna. And if you’ve been around here a while, you’ll know romance isn’t usually my thing. I enjoy how realistic their relationship is, and how the author doesn’t take the easy “oh, we’re werewolves and now we looooove each other” way.

In fact, I just reread the entire Alpha & Omega series, because of DEAD HEAT. My review of the book will be coming closer to release date, but for now, I wanted to get more people excited about this series. Because I think this book is the best yet in the series.

I reviewed CRY WOLF in 2009. 2009! I can’t believe it. I wish there were more Charles and Anna books, but each one is fantastic and really, I mean it when I say DEAD HEAD is the best one yet.

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Half the World by Joe AbercrombieHalf the World by Joe Abercrombie
Series: Shattered Sea #2
Published by Del Rey on February 17, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.

She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.

Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.

Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Book Review:

In 2014, the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, HALF A KING, was one of my favorite books of the year. I’m two months into 2015 and I already know the second book, HALF THE WORLD, will be one of my favorites for this year.

Some awesome things about HALF THE WORLD:

♥ It’s the second book in a trilogy, but you DO NOT need to be familiar with book one. I recommend you read HALF A KINGbecause Yarvi’s story is fantastic. But if you skip it, you won’t be confused. The author fills you in on what you need to know.

♥ If you like kick butt, prickly, determined, stubborn female main characters, you’ll probably love Thorn Bathu. Thorn’s my kind of girl — she wants to be a warrior, the first female warrior to stand in the shield wall. But everyone’s against her, and when her trainer names her a murderer, she almost loses her life. Father Yarvi rescues her from death, but is his rescue really a rescue? If you read HALF A KING, you’ll know Yarvi plays his own game, and even if you haven’t, his actions show his character in HALF THE WORLD. The short version? Thorn comes out even stronger in the end of the book than she was in the beginning, but it’s a bumpy ride. Even worse than hauling a ship overland.

♥ As the title implies, HALF THE WORLD shows a great deal of the world of the Shattered Sea. The characters do journey over half the world trying to find support for their country. As much as I like the Viking feel of Gettland, it was cool to see other cultures and peoples. HALF THE WORLD feels epic in scope without clocking in at 700+ pages. I love big fat fantasies, but sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s less than 400 pages and still get the same feeling.

♥ This is quite unusual for me, but I actually liked the romance in HALF THE WORLD. It’s not a big part of the book, but it is there. At first, I rolled my eyes when I saw that Thorn and Brand were attracted to each other, because I didn’t want the book to be full of them making eyes at each other and falling in loooove right away. It’s not. Anyway, Thorn and Brand have some missteps, and spend a good portion of the book mad at each other for reasons a lot of people will recognize. I thought the romance bit was a lot more realistic than you usually see, which is why I liked it.

In case you can’t tell, I thought HALF THE WORLD was fantastic. I think I liked it even more than HALF A KING! I cannot wait to see how everything ties up in the last book, HALF A WAR, due out later this year. I need my Yarvi and Thorn fix!

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– leeanna

Book Review: In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

Book Review: In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnisIn a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis
Series: Not a Drop to Drink #2
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 23, 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

Book Review:

I was blown away by the bleak world and strong characters in Mindy McGinnis’s NOT A DROP TO DRINK so I was intrigued to see a companion book set in the same world. IN A HANDFUL OF DUST picks up about ten years after NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and while it’s not necessary to have read the first book, I’d encourage it. Otherwise you’re missing out on a great book.

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is different for two reasons: it’s from Lucy’s perspective and it shows the wider world outside of the pond. Lucy is much more naive than Lynn, more inclined to see the good in others and situations, more trusting and vulnerable. Lynn was my spirit animal in NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and I couldn’t help but wish this book was also from her point-of-view, since I liked her view of the world so much.

Lucy just kind of grated on my nerves, since she grew up in a disaster-ridden world, knew life was dangerous, but wanted to see the best in things anyway. I’m not that type of person, so I had a hard time seeing her make mistakes due to being too trusting or not thinking before acting. I guess I thought no-nonsense Lynn would have rubbed off more, although Lynn did talk about not wanting Lucy to be like her.

The road trip aspect of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST showed off the effects of the Shortage on more of the world. I did find that interesting, since I’m always curious to see how authors will develop a post-apocalyptic world. But the road trip just didn’t grab my attention like Lynn’s fight for survival by the pond did. It was almost … tame in comparison, although Lucy and Lynn do get in a few dangerous situations.

The ending of the book threw me, too. I’m not going to spoil it, but all I can say is what??

Overall, while I didn’t like IN A HANDFUL OF DUST as much as I liked NOT A DROP TO DRINK, I’m still happy I read it, because I did like knowing what happened to Lucy and Lynn after the events of the first book.

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Mindy McGinnis:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan Chance

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan ChanceThe Web by Megan Chance
Series: Fianna Trilogy #2
Published by Skyscape on January 20, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
In Victorian New York, seventeen-year-old Grace Knox is tangled in the web of an ancient prophecy.

The Fianna, legendary Irish warriors, have been magically called from their undying sleep to aid Ireland in its rebellion against Britain. But the Fianna have awakened in New York alongside their bitter enemies, the Fomori. A prophecy demands that a Druid priestess—a veleda—must choose between these two sides. Grace is this veleda.

But being the veleda means she must sacrifice her power—and her life—to her choice. On one side are her fiancé, Patrick Devlin, and the Fomori. On the other are the Fianna—and the warrior Diarmid Ua Duibhne, with whom Grace shares an undeniable connection. Patrick has promised to find a way to save her life. In three months, at the ancient ritual, Diarmid must wield the knife that kills her.

Grace doesn’t know whom to trust. As dark forces converge on the city, she struggles to discover the truth about her power. Can she change her own destiny? Can she escape the shadows of the past and reach for a future she could never have imagined?

Book Review:

THE WEB is the second book in Megan Chance’s Fianna Trilogy. The series is a cross between historical fiction and fantasy, set in Victorian era New York where heroes of Irish lore have come back to life.

The first book, THE SHADOWS, was just okay for me. My favorite part was the Celtic mythology/fantasy. My biggest complaint with THE SHADOWS was that not a lot happened, and unfortunately, that’s the same complaint I have with THE WEB.

THE WEB suffers from Second Book Syndrome: the plot barely advances, Graces mopes and angsts over being attracted to Derry, and … that’s it, I think. I finished the book about an hour ago, and I can’t think of much to say about it.

Supposedly a Druid priestess, Grace is stuck between the Fianna and the Fomori, heroes and villains of Irish folklore. Between gang boy Derry and her fiancé Patrick. Yup, there’s a love triangle here, but THE WEB focuses mainly on the Grace and Derry leg. I didn’t buy it, especially since they started talking about how much they loved each other in this book. But then I tend to be very critical of romance in YA.

And that’s about it, really. For the length of the book (~380 pages), more should have happened. I wanted more plot and less romance. After the cliffhanger in THE SHADOWS, I just expected more from THE WEB.

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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Grave Matters by Lauren M. Roy

waiting on wednesday

grave matters by lauren m. royGrave Matters (Night Owls #2) by Lauren M. Roy
Release Date: February 24, 2015

Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy’s thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life…

Elly grew up training to kill things that go bump in the night, so she’s still getting used to working alongside them. While she’s learned to trust the eclectic group of vampires, Renfields, and succubi at Night Owls bookstore, her new job guarding Boston’s most powerful vampire has her on edge—especially when she realizes something strange is going on with her employer, something even deadlier than usual…

Cavale isn’t thrilled that his sister works for vampires, but he’s determined to repair their relationship, and that means trusting her choices—until Elly’s job lands all of the Night Owls in deep trouble with a vengeful necromancer. And even their collective paranormal skills might not be enough to keep them from becoming part of the necromancer’s undead army…

Last February, I reviewed the first book in the Night Owls series, NIGHT OWLS. I loved the idea of a vampire running a bookstore. I thought it was a solid urban fantasy debut, and so I was quite excited to see there’s another book coming at the end of this month, GRAVE MATTERS! Also, it’s probably horrible, but I’m eager to see what sort of necromancer the author has in store. Her supernatural creatures are pretty true to form, so no sparkly vampires here.

Socialize with the author:

Lauren M. Roy:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna